Eicke Weber: Trump’s border wall could host 5 GW of PV capacity


U.S. President Donald Trump announced in his electoral campaign that he wanted to build a wall along the nation’s southern border with Mexico. After the election, discussions began on how the project could be financed. At a recent meeting in Iowa, Trump said that solar modules could be installed at the wall, and that this would effectively cover the cost of the construction works.

Eicke Weber, who is the former head of Germany’s solar energy research institute Fraunhofer ISE and whom now works at the University of Berkeley, California, said in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel that a solar plant in the area of the wall would be economically viable.

The scientist added that solar in the region can achieve a levelized cost of electricity between $0.03 and $0.05/kWh, and this makes PV very competitive. According to him, the project could be amortized over a 5-6 year  time period.

The plant could be 2,000 miles long and five meters high, allowing for a surface area of 6 square miles. If modules with a power range of 300 watt to 400 watt were to be used, the solar park could reach a total capacity of 5 GW.

Weber concluded that he is glad that Trump, who is an avowed climate change denier, has proposed to use solar for his controverial border wall, and is encouraged that the president has at least begun to consider solar and eventually wind as viable options to produce power.

The idea of installing solar plants at the wall is not new. One of the recent proposal for building the president’s barrier, submitted by the Las Vegas company Gleason LLC, included the installation of a 2 MW solar array. According to the company’s proposal, the solar panels will power the wall’s lighting, sensors and patrol stations.

Gleason’s proposal also said the 2 MW system would sell excess power to utilities, which would cover the cost of its construction in 20 years or less.


Translated from German by Emiliano Bellini

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